Brandon Neighbors and Leyner Argueta named GNTC’s 2019 GOAL and Rick Perkins Award winners

February 1, 2019
Click image to view more

Automotive Technology student Brandon Neighbors was named Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s (GNTC) 2019 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) winner and Leyner Argueta, program director of Business Management, was selected as the college’s 2019 Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year.

The winners were named during a reception at GNTC’s Floyd County Campus in Rome on Friday, Feb. 1. The awards were sponsored by the Rome Floyd Chamber, the Seven Hills Rotary Club of Rome and GNTC.

“Technical education has allowed me to take the first steps toward fulfilling my dream of one day owning my own business,” said Neighbors, a resident of Ringgold. “It is equipping me with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the Automotive Technology field.”


Brandon Neighbors (right) Georgia Northwestern’s 2019 GOAL Winner and Leyner Argueta (left) Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year at GNTC.
Brandon Neighbors (right) Georgia Northwestern’s 2019 GOAL Winner and Leyner Argueta (left) Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year at GNTC.

Harley Chastain, a resident of Calhoun who was chosen in December to represent Georgia Northwestern at the EAGLE Leadership Institute, was also recognized during the presentation. The Leadership Institute recognizes and honors those students who have demonstrated superior achievement in Adult Education classes and programs.

Neighbors is a student on the Walker County Campus and was nominated by Troy Peco, assistant dean of Industrial Technologies and director of GNTC’s Automotive Technology program. Peco was the Technical College System of Georgia’s (TCSG) Instructor of the Year in 2013.

“Brandon is an exceptional student that has a work ethic and passion for learning and his drive and ambition is contagious to other students,” said Peco. “He has always risen to the occasion and has taken the leadership role on group assignments with other students.”

Neighbors was selected from a group of four semi-finalists for his presentation on technical education by a panel of judges representing business, industry and higher education in the northwest Georgia region.

“As a husband and father, I needed to attend a school close to me rather than moving my family to pursue an education,” said Neighbors. “Technical colleges are right in our communities.”

“I wanted a school that can work with my family’s busy schedule, that offers classes day and night, especially at the age of 38 with two children in school,” continued Neighbors.

Neighbors was the director of Youth Ministry at Rock Spring United Methodist Church, 2013-17, and was an Officer in the United States Marine Corps, 2002-10.

He attended the United States Naval Academy and earned a bachelor’s degree in General Engineering in 2002. As a U.S. Marine, Neighbors was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal in 2009 and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal in 2010.

Neighbors has served as a volunteer for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) disaster response team, 2010-present; leader for the Hurricane Maria humanitarian relief team in Puerto Rico, 2018; and a participant in the Hurricane Katrina humanitarian relief team in New Orleans, 2006.

“For the past five years, I have spent one to two weeks each summer as a team leader for our church’s mission in Puerto Rico,” said Neighbors.

As the 2019 GOAL Winner for Georgia Northwestern, Neighbors will move to the regional competition and if chosen as a regional winner he will compete at the state level against winners from the other regions of Georgia. A panel of leaders from business, industry, and government will choose the Technical College System of Georgia’s GOAL winner for 2019 and recipient of the GOAL medallion. The 2019 Student of the Year and state GOAL winner will serve as TCSG’s student ambassador during a number of system and college functions throughout the year.

As the grand prize, a new automobile provided by Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia will be awarded to the state GOAL winner.

An instructor at Georgia Northwestern since 2015, Leyner Argueta teaches Management and Supervisory Development on the Whitfield Murray Campus in Dalton. He is a resident of Calhoun and is bilingual in English and Spanish.

The son of immigrants, Argueta had to overcome many obstacles growing up including being born with only one hand and being diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of 21.

“Every now and then when my life gets tough, I remember the reason for my passion,” said Argueta. “My father always said to me as a child ‘I came to this country to give you a better opportunity,’ an opportunity that he didn’t have.”

From 2010 to present, Argueta has served as the pastor and founder of Faith Moves Church in Calhoun.

Prior to becoming a resident of Georgia, Argueta was a government sales account manager for CDW in Chicago. In this role he oversaw the logistics of all international sales, which included negotiating a multimillion dollar contract with the Department of Education of the Virgin Islands.

He was a senior real estate agent for JMAC Real Estate in Chicago, 2004-07; sales manager for D&K International in Elk Grove, Illinois, 1998-2003; and managing partner of golf manufacturing and distribution for Argado Inc. in Chicago, 1998-2000.  

Argueta earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration Management from Dalton State College in 2014 and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Shorter University in 2017.

An active member of the community in Calhoun, he has served as vice chair of the Governing Team at Red Bud Middle School, 2014 to present; chairperson for the Board of Directors of Voluntary Action Center, 2010-16; and Governing Counsel at Red Bud Elementary School, 2011-14.

“Just like my father, I see my struggles and challenges as a platform,” said Argueta. “Today I tell my students, just as my father told me, stand on my shoulders I promise you’ll get a better view.”

As GNTC’s Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year, Argueta will compete in the regional competition. If chosen as a regional winner, he will compete at the state level in the competition. A panel of leaders from business, industry and government will choose one instructor to be the 2019 Technical College System of Georgia’s Rick Perkins Instructor of the Year. The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

The Rick Perkins Award winner serves as an ambassador for technical education in Georgia. He or she will make many public appearances throughout the year, including addressing both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 12,785 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,499 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 5,286 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.

# # #